A1) At the end of September 2023, there were 41.3 million licensed vehicles in the UK, an increase of 1.4 per cent compared to the end of September 2022.
Cars make up the majority of licensed vehicles. In the United Kingdom, there were 33.58 million cars (81.3 per cent), 4.73 million LGVs (11.4 per cent), 0.54 million HGVs (1.3 per cent), 1.47 million motorcycles (3.6 per cent), 0.14 million buses & coaches (0.3 per cent) and 0.86 million other vehicles (2.1 per cent) licensed at the end of September 2023.
The total number of licensed vehicles has increased in all but two years (1991 & 2020) since the end of the Second World War.
Historical details about the number of licensed vehicles can be viewed in table VEH0101
In the last 25 years, van traffic has seen the fastest growth (in percentage terms) of any motor vehicle, increasing 90 per cent to 57.5 billion vehicle miles in 2022. This rapid rise in van traffic now means that van traffic as a proportion of all motor vehicle miles has increased from 11 per cent to 18 per cent over the same period.
The number of vans in Great Britain has also increased substantially over the last 25 years, increasing 101 per cent from 2.2 million licensed vans in 1997 to 4.5 million licensed vans in 2022.
A3) At the end of December 2022, the most common licensed car was the Ford Fiesta with 1.46 million licensed, followed by the Ford Focus with 1.06 million, and the Volkswagen Golf with 1.01 million.
A4) At the end of December 2022, the top 3 makes in the UK’ s licensed car stock were:-
- Ford (12.0 per cent)
- Vauxhall (8.9 per cent)
- Volkswagen (8.8 per cent)
A5) At the end of December 2022, about 35 per cent of registered private keepers of licensed cars in Great Britain were female.
Over the last 25 years, compared to the end of December 1997, the proportion of licensed cars registered to female private keepers has increased from 29 per cent to 35 per cent in Great Britain whilst over the same period, the proportion of licensed cars registered to male private keepers has decreased from 56 per cent to 50 per cent.
A6) The average car or van in England is driven just 4 per cent of the time, a figure that has barely changed in quarter of a century.
For the rest of the time the car or van is either parked at home (73 per cent) or parked elsewhere (23 per cent), for example at work.
Source: RAC Foundation: Standing Still
A7) In England in 2022, 10 per cent of household vehicles were parked in a garage overnight; 62 per cent were parked on private property (but not garaged); 25 per cent were parked on the street; and 3 per cent were parked in other places.
Since 2002, the proportion of respondents parking vehicles in garages has decreased from 22 per cent to 10 per cent and the proportion parking elsewhere on private property has increased by about the same amount (from 50 per cent to 62 per cent).
A8) No. The cars on Britain’s roads have, on average, got larger over time, both in width and in length. In 1965 the top five models sold in the UK had an average width of 1.5m and average length of 3.9m, compared to an average width of 1.8m and length of 4.3m for the top five sellers of 2020. Despite this, the typical garage door width for a domestic property is around 2.1m, leaving just 0.15m on either side of the average car in 2020.
While there is no extensive data on the changes in domestic garage dimensions over time, through evidence provided by various councils it can be seen that garage size poses a problem for anyone wanting to use their garage to park their car, and not merely in older residential developments. It comes as no surprise, then, that the ‘garage’ in many homes ends up being converted into a room, or simply serves as a storage shed. This view is borne out by an RAC study from 2014 which revealed that 62 per cent of households use their garage for purposes other than parking a car. Of the 38 per cent choosing to use their garage for its intended purpose, one in five had a hard time getting their car in, owing to limited dimensions.
Source: RAC Foundation: Standing Still
A9) 18 million (65 per cent) of Britain’s 27.6 million households have – or could have – enough off-street parking to accommodate at least one car or van?
Breaking the numbers down:
- Wales – 75 per cent of households have – or could have – off-street parking and electric vehicle charging
- England (excluding London) 68 per cent
- Scotland – 63 per cent
- London – 44 per cent
- Great Britain – 65 per cent
Details of the proportion of homes with – or with the potential to have – off-street parking by both local authority area and Westminster parliamentary constituency can be viewed in the report.
Source: RAC Foundation: Standing Still
A10) At the end of December 2022, the average age of a licensed car in the United Kingdom was 9.1 years old, up 4 months compared to the end of December 2021.
A11) In the average car’s lifetime, it will have 4 owners.
Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – Motorparc Census
A12) The commercial fleet and company car market is a primary driver of new registrations for cars. During 2022, 53.2 per cent of cars registered for the first time had a company keeper. However, the proportion of all licensed cars at the end of December 2022 kept by companies was much lower at only 8.5 per cent. This is due to company-kept cars typically moving to become privately-kept after the car is around three years old.
The proportion of licensed cars with company keepers in Great Britain has remained within the range of 8 per cent to 10 per cent since 1994.
A13) New car registrations reached 1,903,054 in 2023 – up 17.9 per cent over the 1,614,063 new cars that entered the UK market in 2022.
Growth was driven entirely by fleet investment which rebounded by 38.7 per cent year on year as the previous year’s supply constraints faded. Business registrations, a small proportion of the market, fell by 1.5 per cent. Private consumer demand remained stable.
A14) In 2023:-
- 44,031 cars were sold to businesses (companies that operate up to 24 vehicles) – a fall of 1.5 per cent from 44,715 in 2022;
- 1,041,350 cars were sold to fleets (companies that operate fleets of 25 or more vehicles) – an increase of 38.7 per cent from 750,838 in 2022; and
- 817,673 cars were sold to private buyers – a fall of 0.1 per cent from 818,510 in 2022.
A15) In 2022, the top 3 makes for new car registrations in the UK were:-
- Volkswagen (8.2 per cent)
- Ford (7.8 per cent)
- Toyota (7.0 per cent)
A16) For the sixth year in a row, grey retained its position as the UK’s favourite new car colour in 2023. 509,194 grey cars were sold over the course of 2023, accounting for more than a quarter (26.8 per cent) of the market. Black and white held second and third places respectively, also for the sixth consecutive year. Almost two thirds (63.5 per cent) of all new cars joining UK roads in 2023 were painted in grey, black or white,
Blue rose 10.9 per cent to take fourth place and red remained in fifth – although it also recorded its lowest market share since 2005 and has seen its popularity steadily decline since 2019. Green, however, experienced a comeback, reaching its highest volume since 2005 at 53,426 units and a market share of 2.8 per cent, the highest since 2004. Meanwhile, maroon, pink and cream comprised just 604 registrations combined.
A17) The UK’s used car market grew by 5.1 per cent in 2023 to 7,242,692 transactions, 351,915 more than in 2022 (6,890,777 transactions).
Across the year, sales of used battery electric cars almost doubled, rising 90.9 per cent to a record 118,973 units and a 1.6 per cent share of the overall market, up from 0.9 per cent in 2022. Sales of hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars were also strong, up by 40.0 per cent and 25.1 per cent respectively and, collectively, electrified vehicles represented 5.6 per cent of the market – up from 4.0 per cent in 2022. However, diesel and petrol, remained the most dominant fuel types, with a total of 6,827,466 units changing hands – 94.3 per cent of the overall market.
A18) With receding supply chain challenges and new model introductions, UK car production rose 16.8 per cent in 2023 to 905,117 units as compared to 775,014 units in 2022. This was the best growth rate since 2010.
While 191,247 cars were built for domestic buyers, the lion’s share of output – 78.9 per cent – was shipped overseas. Year on year, exports rose 17.6 per cent compared with a 13.7 per cent rise in output for the British market.
The EU remained by far the sector’s largest global market, taking 60.3 per cent of exports, with shipments up almost a quarter (23.2 per cent) to 430,411 units. The US was the next biggest destination with a 10.3 per cent share of exports (73,571 units), followed by China with 7.2 per cent (51,202 units), despite shipments to both slipping by 9.1 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively. Turkey, conversely, saw exports surge 223.8 per cent to 27,346 units, making it the UK’s fourth biggest global market ahead of Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada, UAE and Switzerland.
A19) In November 2023, the total number of driving licences registered with DVLA was 51,862,161. Of these, 41,995,944 were full driving entitlement licences and 9,866,217 were provisional entitlement licences. These figures are for the whole of Great Britain.
It should be stressed that neither DVLA or DfT would recommend that users rely on this data being a true reflection of the number of active driving licence holders in Great Britain as the DVLA data includes details of people who have died, emigrated etc and who have not been removed from the DVLA database.
Source: Driving Licence Data
More robust estimates of active driving licence holders are available from the National Travel Survey. Latest estimates show that in 2022, about 75 per cent of English residents aged 17 and over held a driving licence. (In 2022 this was estimated to be 34.62 million people). In 1992, the proportion of adults with a licence in England was estimated at 67 per cent (an estimated 25.4 million people).
Around 81 per cent of men and 71 per cent of women of English residents aged 17 and over hold a licence. Whilst, over the long term, licence holding among both men and women has increased, the rate of increase has been much greater for women. For men, the percentage has only gone up by 1 per cent since 2002, but for women, driving licence holding has increased by 10 percentage points in the same period.
A20) In 2022, 27 per cent of men and women aged 17 – 20 held a full licence.
The percentage of young men and young women holding a full driving licence was very similar – 27 per cent for young men and 26 per cent for young women.
A21) Aside from those unable to drive because of a disability of health condition, more than 8 out of 10 (85 per cent) of young people aged 17 to 24 think it is certain or likely they will be driving a car or van at least once a week by 2035, even though only little over half (56 per cent) currently do so now.
The most common reasons given by those questioned for believing they will start driving include an expectation their lifestyles will require it and a belief that driving will be more convenient for them than either public transport or active travel (such as walking and cycling). However, young people also recognise that driving is set to change in the coming years and there is a broad recognition of the need to reduce the environmental impact of driving.
The numbers are revealed in a survey by Ipsos for the RAC Foundation.
Source: RAC Foundation
A22) There has been a large increase in the number of older people in England holding a full driving licence. Between 1995/1997 and 2022 the proportion of people aged 70+ holding a licence increased from 39 per cent to 73 per cent. This is due to aging of existing licence holders rather than large numbers of newly qualified drivers in older age groups.
The increase among older women is particularly notable: 80 per cent of women aged 60-69 and 62 per cent aged 70+ held a full licence in 2022 compared with 46 per cent and 22 per cent in 1995/97 respectively.
A23) According to DVLA data there are now 5.97 million people aged 70 or more in Great Britain who hold a full licence.
1.65 million holders of full driving licences in Great Britain are aged 80 or over, including 510 aged 100 or over. The oldest holder of a full licence is 108.
While not all of these licence holders will be active drivers, the statistics illustrate the growing number of older people who still use a car.
Drivers do not have to have mandatory tests or health checks after obtaining their licence no matter how old they become, although they are required to inform the DVLA if they are no longer fit to drive.
However, at age 70 all drivers must self-certify their fitness to drive, something they need to do every three years thereafter.
Source: RAC Foundation
A24) More than one in six jobs being advertised in the UK requires applicants to be able to drive.
Research by the RAC Foundation shows that in the first week of October 2023 a total of 1,092,172 recruitment advertisements were posted on the job vacancy aggregator site Adzuna.
Of the 1,092,172 advertisements, 189,608 (17.4 per cent) explicitly or implicitly required those applying to have at least a standard driving licence because the job was either:-
- specifically for a driver
- or required driving during the course of work
- or a car was needed to reach work (due to reduced accessibility by public transport)
Using specific occupation categories as defined by the Office for National Statistics, the data revealed that the need to drive was, to a greater or lesser degree, a requirement in a wide variety of roles, for example:-
- 100 per cent of driving instructors
- 67 per cent of plumbers
- 59 per cent of estate agents and auctioneers
- 34 per cent of care workers and home carers
The sectors least likely to require job applicants to have the ability to drive were teaching and education; culture, media and sport; and secretarial and administrative.
Further details of the top 30 occupations with driving as an explicit or implicit requirement in job advertisements and an analysis of the data for the same week in October in the eight years from 2016 to 2023 can be viewed here.
A25) About 78 per cent.
There have been significant long-term increases in the proportion of households with access to a car or van. The proportion of households without a car has fallen from 48 per cent in 1971 (based on the Census) to 22 per cent in 2022, while the proportion of households with access to two or more cars or vans increased over this period from 8 per cent to 34 per cent.
Since 2000, there have been more households with two or more cars or vans than households with no car or van.
A26) In 2022, 84 per cent of adults in England lived in a household with a car or van. This differed very slightly between men and women (85 per cent and 82 per cent respectively).
A27) Research carried out by the RAC Foundation (based on 2011 Census data) shows that of the 348 English and Welsh local authorities, the East Dorset District Council area has the highest number of cars and vans per head of population.
For every thousand people – men, women and children – living in East Dorset, there are 694 cars. This compares with an average of 487 cars and vans per thousand people as a whole. By contrast, Hackney has the fewest at 170 cars and vans per thousand people.
A28) Urban households.
Three quarters of SUVs sold in the UK are registered to urban households according to analysis of data from 2019 and 2020 by the think tank New Weather Institute and climate charity Possible.
According to the report, “rather than large SUVs being most popular in remote farming regions, six of the top ten areas for new sales are urban or suburban districts. Although these vehicles have 4-wheel-drive and off-road capability, the top three districts for large SUVs are inner London boroughs. These include Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Westminster. On average, the report found that one in three new private cars bought in these areas is a large SUV.
A29) The RAC Foundation’s report entitled “The Car in British Society” showed that the dominance of the car as a mode of transport in the early years of the 21st Century is absolute and that policy makers must recognise this fact as they introduce measures to cut traffic and hence ease congestion and fight climate change.
The car continues to dominate most people’s daily travel. In 2022, 58 per cent of trips were made by car, either as a driver or passenger. The car is also the most common mode for distance travelled, accounting for 78 per cent of all miles travelled in 2022.
Source : National Travel Survey: England 2022
Car use (both as driver and passenger) accounts for only 8 per cent of the trips under half a mile in length but rises to 76 per cent of all trips in the 2 – 3 mile band and 80 per cent of trips longer than five miles in length; above one mile, more than half of all trips are by car.
Source: The Car in British Society
The Commission for Integrated Transport noted in its “Medium-length Trip Patterns” report that 42 per cent of car mileage was driven on medium-length car trips (defined as 5 – 25 miles).
A30) Across Great Britain, 68 per cent of commuters used a car to get to work in 2022. This was similar to previous years. At least 70 per cent of people travelled to work by car in most regions, but in London this figure was much lower at 29 per cent. This was a similar trend to that seen in previous years.
The percentage of workers usually travelling to work by car by region of workplace in 2022 can be seen below:-
|Yorkshire & Humber
|East of England
The issue was also considered in a RAC Foundation report The Car and the Commute.
A31) The estimated average annual mileage per car in England has decreased as the number of cars per household has risen, falling from around 9,200 miles in 2002 to 6,600 miles in 2022.
There are different trends depending on whether the car is company or privately owned. Company cars have an annual mileage about double that of private cars – 12,700 compared to 6,500 in 2022.
The estimated average annual mileage was higher for diesel cars than petrol cars, at 7,900 miles and 6,000 miles respectively in 2022.
A32) An analysis carried out by the RAC Foundation shows that the newest cars in Great Britain do an average of 10,377 miles in each of the first three years after they are registered. This is the equivalent of 28 miles per day. (Private cars are required to start having annual MOTs once they are three years old. At that point the mileage is recorded by the test venue and it is this information that has been used in the research).
However, there are big differences between cars of varying make, model and fuel type. The results show that new diesel cars cover an average of 12,496 miles in each of their first three years. This is 67% more than new petrol cars which only do an average of 7,490 miles per year. Pure battery electric cars are driven an average of 9,435 miles per year.
Full details of the average annual mileage of new cars in each of their first 3 years by make, model and fuel type can be viewed here.
Source: RAC Foundation
A33) Traffic in 2022 was impacted by the travel restrictions that were in place across the country between March 2020 and March 2022 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. So comparing traffic estimates for 2022 (and 2020 & 2021) with previous calendar years is misleading. Vehicle miles travelled in Great Britain saw year-on-year growth in each year between 2012 and 2019. Following a sharp decline in 2020, traffic levels in 2021 and 2022 increased, but 2022 levels still remain lower than the 2016 levels. Therefore, to say traffic has fallen since 2016 would misconstrue as the overall decrease is entirely due to the decline in traffic levels observed during the pandemic.
In 2022, 323.8 billion vehicle miles (bvm) were driven on Great Britain’s roads, an increase of 8.8 per cent compared to 2021. However, traffic in 2022 was 4.4 per cent lower when compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
Car traffic increased by 10.2 per cent from 2021 levels to 244.0 bvm. 2022 car traffic estimates remain lower than those for before the pandemic (-7.2 per cent when compared to 2019); van traffic increased by 5.8 per cent from 2021 to 57.5 bvm miles. Van traffic estimates for 2022 are higher than levels before the pandemic (+7.6 per cent when compared to 2019); and lorry traffic decreased slightly by 0.6 per cent from 2021 to 17.4 bvm. 2022 lorry traffic estimates are higher than levels before the pandemic (+1.0 per cent when compared to 2019).
Motorway traffic increased by 13.3 per cent compared to 2021, carrying 68.2 bvm of traffic. Motorway traffic estimates for 2022 remain lower than those for before the pandemic (-3.2 per cent); ‘A’ road traffic saw a 9.4 per cent increase from 2021, to 142.0 bvm of traffic. ‘A’ roads traffic estimates for 2022 are lower than those for before the pandemic (-5.5 per cent when compared to 2019); and minor road traffic increased by 5.6 per cent since 2021, to 113.6 bvm of traffic. 2022 minor roads traffic estimates remain lower than those for before the pandemic (-3.7 per cent when compared to 2019).
Latest figures show that 329.6 bvm were driven on Great Britain’s roads in the 12 month period ending September 2023. This was up 2.3 per cent compared to the year ending September 2022. However, traffic levels for the year ending September 2023 were 2.7 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.
In the year ending September 2023:-
- car traffic was higher than the previous year but below pre-pandemic levels
- van traffic was higher than the previous year and above pre-pandemic levels
- lorry traffic was lower than the previous year and similar to pre-pandemic levels
Also in the year ending September 2023:-
- motorway traffic was higher than the previous year but below pre-pandemic levels
- ‘A’ road traffic was higher than the previous year but below pre-pandemic levels
- minor road traffic was higher than the previous year but below pre-pandemic levels
A34) The National Road Traffic Projections 2022 study presents the Department for Transport’s latest projections of road traffic, congestion and emissions in England and Wales up to the year 2060, using the DfT’s National Transport Model (NTM). Within these forecasts, seven different plausible scenarios have been constructed that reflect the uncertainty in the key drivers of road traffic demand.
The factors with the biggest influence on future traffic volume are:-
- economic growth
- employment levels
- number and type of households
- fuel prices
- fuel efficiency.
Traffic levels in England and Wales are projected to grow in all the scenarios, but with large variation around the size and trend of that growth. From 2025, traffic is projected to grow between 8 per cent and 54 per cent by 2060. Consequently, delay is projected to increase by between 6 per cent and 85 per cent from 2025 to 2060. (This is measured as average delay per vehicle per mile in seconds).
The lowest levels of traffic are seen in the Behavioural Change Scenario which assumes increased flexible working, online shopping and reduced rates of driving licence holding among younger cohorts. In this scenario, traffic is projected to grow by 8 per cent between 2025 and 2060. The highest growth is seen in the Technology Scenario which assumes high and fast uptake of connected and autonomous vehicles (AVs) and high and fast uptake of electric vehicles which are assumed to maintain their current cost advantage over petrol and diesel vehicles. This is just one potential future with AVs which assumes increased trip making for the elderly and increased driving licence holding for all. In this scenario, traffic is projected to grow by 54 per cent between 2025 and 2060.
A35) The second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) was published by the government in March 2020. It sets a long-term strategic vision for the network and specifies the performance standards Highways England must meet; lists planned enhancement schemes that are expected to be built; and states the funding that will be made available during the second Road Period (RP2), covering the financial years 2020/21 to 2024/25.
In total, RIS2 commits the Government to spend £27.4 billion during RP2. Some of this will be used to build new road capacity, but much more will be used to improve the quality and reduce the negative impacts of the existing Strategic Roads Network.
The Strategy document can be viewed here.
The Government has also announced plans to double the Strategic Road Network to around 8,000 miles to create a new Major Road Network (MRN) which will include many routes which are under the control of councils. Details can be viewed here.
A36) In 2022, the total length of roads in Great Britain was estimated to be 245,100 miles. This was 1,800 more miles than in 2002 (a 0.7 per cent increase).
There were 31,900 miles of major road in Great Britain in 2022, consisting of 2,300 miles of motorway and 29,600 miles of ‘A’ roads. These major roads make up about 13 per cent of the total road length.
The majority of road lengths in Great Britain is made up of minor roads, with these roads accounting for 213,200 miles in 2022. The minor roads consist of 18,800 miles of ‘B’ road, 51,600 miles of ‘C’ road and 142,800 miles of ‘U’ road.
A37) Of the 245,100 miles of road in Great Britain in 2022, 187,200 miles (76 per cent) of road were in England, 36,900 miles (15 per cent) were in Scotland, and 21,100 miles 9 per cent) were in Wales.
The road networks for Scotland and Wales account for a higher proportion of all road length in Great Britain compared to the population of these countries, which are more sparsely populated.
Within England, the regions with the largest amount of road length were the South West, which had 30,961 miles, and the South East, with 29,962 miles.
A38) There are still more than five and a half thousand miles of road in Britain where drivers would find it impossible to call for help in case of a crash or breakdown because there is no mobile phone voice coverage from any network provider.
The stretches of road – measuring 5,540 in total – represent 2 per cent of the length of Britain’s overall road network – which is 245,705 miles long.
According to the RAC Foundation analysis, a further 44,368 miles of road (18 per cent) have only partial voice coverage meaning there are many areas where some but not all phones will receive a signal depending on the service provider they rely on.
A39) In 2022, 68.2 billion vehicle miles (bvm) were carried on motorways; 95.7 bvm on rural “A” roads; 46.2 bvm on urban “A” roads; 48.1 bvm on rural minor roads; and 65.4 bvm on urban minor roads.
Motorway traffic increased by 13.3 per cent between 2021 and 2022. 21 per cent of all vehicle miles were driven on motorways.
Traffic volumes are not proportionate to road lengths. In 2022, 65 per cent of the motor vehicle miles travelled were on motorways and ‘A’ roads, despite comprising only 13 per cent of the road network by length. On an average day in 2022, 55 times more vehicles travelled along a typical stretch of motorway than a typical stretch of a minor road (‘B’ roads, ‘C’ roads, and unclassified roads).
A40) A journey analysis undertaken in November 2019 showed that only a small proportion (14 per cent) of car and taxi trips on the M25 – one of the longest and busiest ring roads in the world – bypass London completely and are made by people travelling from one part of the country to another.
The vast majority (74 per cent) of car and taxi trips that include the M25 actually start or end in London.
The remaining proportion (12 per cent) of car and van trips are so-called intra-London movements, meaning the journeys both start and end in the capital but use the 117-mile-long orbital motorway as part of the route.
The analysis also revealed that of the strategic routes “feeding” the M25, the M1 was the most significant, followed by the M4, M3, M40 and A2.
Full details can be viewed here.
A41) A smart motorway is a section of a motorway that uses technology to monitor and manage the flow of traffic permanently or at particularly busy times of the day. The technology is controlled from the National Highway’s regional control centres which can activate and change signs and variable speed limits. A map showing where smart motorways are operating can be viewed here.
There are currently three different types of smart motorway:- controlled motorways; dynamic hard shoulder running schemes and all lane running schemes.
Controlled motorways have three or more lanes with variable speed limits but retain a hard shoulder. Variable speed limits are displayed on overhead gantry signs – if no speed limit is displayed the national speed limit is in place. Speed cameras are used to enforce these limits.
Dynamic hard shoulder running involves opening the hard shoulder as a running lane to traffic at busy periods to ease congestion. Overhead signs on gantries indicate whether or not the hard shoulder is open to traffic. The hard shoulder must not be used if the signs over it are blank or display a red X, except in the case of an emergency.
All lane running schemes permanently remove the hard shoulder and convert it into a running lane. These motorways also have overhead gantry signs that display the mandatory speed limit which varies depending on the traffic conditions – if no speed limit is displayed the national speed limit is in place. Speed cameras are used to enforce these limits. Should drivers break down or be involved in an accident there are emergency refuge areas at the side of the carriageway for them to use.
The RAC’s advice on smart motorways, and how to use them, can be viewed here.
A42) Yes. The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP announced in April 2023 that there will be no more smart motorways built in England given financial pressures and in recognition of the current lack of public confidence felt by drivers.
A total of fourteen schemes in the pipeline will now be abandoned; eleven that were already paused from the current Road Investment Strategy (RIS) 2 and three scheduled to get underway in RIS3. The move will save about £1 billion.
However, while no new stretches of road will be converted into smart motorways, the M56 J6-8 and M6 J21a-26 will be completed given they are already over three quarters constructed.
The £900 million investment being made to improve safety on existing smart motorways will continue. This includes the installation of 150 extra emergency areas in line with the government commitments made to the Transport Select Committee.
Improvements will also be made to stopped vehicle detection technology which will cover every all lane running smart motorway.
Further details can be viewed here.
A43) Car and taxi traffic accounted for 75 per cent of all motor vehicle traffic in Great Britain in 2022, with light van and Heavy Goods Vehicle traffic accounting for 18 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. Motorcycles/scooters and buses/coaches both accounted for 1 per cent.
All motor vehicle types, except lorries, saw an increase in traffic levels between 2021 and 2022. Car and taxi traffic in Great Britain in 2022 increased by 10.2 per cent compared to 2021; van traffic increased by 5.8 per cent; lorry traffic decreased by 0.6 per cent; motorcycle and scooter (excluding e-scooter) traffic increased by 12.1 per cent; and bus and coach traffic by 14.4 per cent.
A44) In 2022, GB registered HGVs travelled 5,846 million kilometres whilst empty. This is 30 per cent of total (loaded and empty) vehicle kilometres travelled during the same period (19,533 million kilometres).
A45) Motor vehicle flow statistics give an indication of how busy roads in Great Britain are rather than volume of miles travelled on the road network. They are presented as the average number of vehicles per day per mile of road.
Motorways continued to have the highest average traffic flow in 2022 with 80.4 thousand vehicles for each mile of motorway per day. The average traffic flow on urban “A” roads was 17.4 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban “A” road per day and traffic flows on rural “A” roads were 11.8 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural “A” road per day.
The average traffic flow on urban minor roads was 2.1 thousand vehicles for each mile of urban minor roads per day and traffic flows on rural minor roads were 1.0 thousand vehicles for each mile of rural minor road per day.
A46) The road link with the highest average daily traffic flows in 2022 was a section of the M25 between junctions 14 and 15. This was followed by 2 other sections of the M25 motorway between junctions 15 to 16 and 13 to 14.,
A47) In 2022 the average free flow speed of cars was 69 mph on motorways and 51 mph on national speed limit single carriageways. Vans were observed to have identical average free flow speeds to cars on both of these road types, also having values of 69 mph and 51 mph respectively.
Cars had an average free flow speed of 30 mph on roads with a speed limit of 30 mph whilst vans had an average free flow speed of 31 mph on these roads. For all vehicle types on 20 mph roads, the average free flow speed was above the speed limit in 2022, with the highest being motorcycles at 28 mph.
A48) The local authority with the highest traffic level in 2022 is Essex with 9.410 billion vehicle miles. Essex is followed by Hampshire (9.232 billion vehicle miles) and Kent (9.165 billion vehicle miles).
Of the five local authorities with the highest levels of traffic, three are in the South East region (Hampshire, Kent, Surrey) and two are in the East of England region (Essex, Hertfordshire). These are all authorities with relatively large road networks, and they all contain some of the major motorways of Great Britain.
A49) The A458 heading towards Snowdonia sees the biggest seasonal increase in traffic on England’s major A roads. During the summer it carries almost a quarter (23.1 per cent) more vehicles than during the rest of the year.
After the A458, comes the A30 in the West Country (19.2 per cent increase) and the A2070 in Kent heading towards the coast and Camber Sands (16.1 per cent). The road with the fourth biggest increase is the A494 just north of Chester which runs into North Wales (15 per cent) and fifth is the A31 through the New Forest (13.1 per cent).
Full details can be viewed here.
A50) In 2019, 0.3 per cent of all traffic on British roads was estimated to be accounted for by foreign registered vehicles. By vehicle type, lorry traffic had the highest proportion of foreign registered vehicles at 3.9 per cent, this was a decrease of 0.6 percentage points compared to 2017. Foreign registered lorries cabotage accounted for just over 1 per cent of road freight activity within the UK.
The South East region had the highest proportion of foreign registered vehicles of any region within Great Britain in 2019. This likely reflects that the South East is the region of arrival and departure for many motor vehicles coming from Europe through ports and the channel tunnel.
(NB These statistics are the latest to be published by the Department for Transport.)
A51) National Highways is the government company which plans, designs, builds, operates and maintains England’s motorways and major A roads, known as the strategic road network.
A map of the National Highways network can be found here.
Other roads are managed by local authorities.
A52) The total amount paid out in compensation by local authorities in England and Wales in 2022/23 for damage to persons or vehicles as a result of poor road condition was £11.6 million. The associated staff costs spent processing these claims totalled £11.1 million.
The overall total cost for addressing these compensation claims was therefore £22.7 million – an increase of about 14 per cent over the £19.9 million reported in the previous year. The total cost of compensation claims in 2022/23 is the equivalent of £110.23 paid per mile of road.
A53) In 2022/23, the total number of potholes filled in was 1.4 million – down from 1.7 million last year but still equivalent to one pothole being repaired every 22 seconds in England (including London) and Wales.
The total cost of filling in these potholes was estimated at £93.7 million, down 13 per cent from the £107.4 million reported in the previous year.
A54) The Pothole Action Fund, designed to provide funding for local authorities to fix the potholes on their roads, has run since 2015. The funding is allocated by formula and shared by local highway authorities in England, outside London and the Isles of Scilly. (London receives a separate funding settlement through TfL).
An additional £200 million for the Potholes Fund in 2023-24 was announced in Spring Budget 2023. Full details can be viewed here.
A55) If you want to report a pothole you can go straight to the authority responsible for the road (most now have an electronic or web-based system available to the public to report potholes and highway faults).
A56) 11 per cent of roads in England (excluding London), 14 per cent of roads in London and 7 per cent of roads in Wales are reported as being in poor structural condition.
Local authorities’ estimate the one-time “catch-up” cost – over and above what local authorities indicate they already receive – to bring their road networks up to scratch has increased by 11 per cent in 2022/23 to £14.02 billion from the £12.64 reported in the previous year. The one-time catch-up cost is an average of £106 million per authority in England (excluding London); £36.3 million in London and £35 million in Wales.
Even if adequate funding and resources were in place to get roads back into a reasonable condition, it is estimated that to clear the carriageway maintenance backlog will take 11 years in England (excluding London), 10 years in London and 9 years in Wales.
A57) Analysis of the data collected from 196 of the 207 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales who responded to FOI requests from the RAC Foundation about the condition of the bridges they managed has identified 3,090 bridges – defined as structures over 1.5 m in span – as being substandard at the end of 2022. (Substandard means unable to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on our roads, including lorries of up to 44 tonnes). These bridges make up 4.3 per cent of the total of 71,925 bridges the 196 councils manage between them.
This compares with the previous year’s figures provided by 196 councils which showed that of the 70,944 bridges they reported as managing, 3,211 (4.53 per cent) were substandard. Whilst the proportion of substandard bridges is the second lowest since the Foundation started its survey back in 2016 (the lowest proportion was 4.27 per cent in 2018/19), it has remained fairly constant over that period, peaking at 4.6 per cent in 2016/17.
Some of the bridges will be substandard because they were built to earlier design standards, whilst others will have deteriorated through age and use. Many of these bridges have weight restrictions. Others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or even managed decline.
There were no reports of bridges that had fully collapsed in the last year. However, there were 14 partial collapses. The 14 partial collapses were in:- Aberdeenshire (5), and Barnet, County Durham, Lancashire, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Shropshire, Tower Hamlets, Warwickshire, Conwy and Newport (1 each).
Between them, councils say they would ideally want to bring 2,506 (81 per cent) of the 3,090 substandard bridges back up to full carrying capacity. However, budget limitations mean they anticipate that only 387 of these will have the necessary work carried out on them within the next five years.
The estimated cost to bring all the substandard bridges back up to perfect condition is £918 million (down 22 per cent on the £1.16 billion figure of a year earlier).The study reveals that the one-time cost to clear the maintenance backlog on all 71,925 bridges is £5.861 billion.
Further details can be viewed here.
A58) In 2021/22, 1,833 bridges were hit by motor vehicles.
The Stonea Road bridge on the B1098 in Cambridgeshire was the most bashed bridge in 2021/22 after being struck 33 times. The second most struck bridge, the Lower Down’s Road bridge in Wimbledon, was struck 18 times.
Bridge strikes reported across the railway network in the last five financial years are as follows:-
Year 2017/18 – 2,039 strikes
Year 2018/19 – 1,926 strikes
Year 2019/20 – 1,720 strikes
Year 2020/21 – 1,624 strikes
Year 2021/22 – 1,833 strikes
Full details, including a list of the top 10 most struck railway bridges in 2021/22, can be seen here.
Source: Network Rail
A59) The Blue Badge scheme is designed to help people with disabilities or health conditions park closer to their destination. The eligibility criteria and the information that you need to apply for a Blue Badge can be viewed here.
Eligibilty for a badge was extended to people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm in August 2019.
The way in which a Blue Badge can be used differs in England, Scotland and Wales. Full details can be viewed here.
You can apply for, or re-new, a Blue Badge here.
A60) There were 2.57 million valid Blue Badges held as at 31 March 2023, an increase of 5.7 per cent (138,000 badges) when compared with the previous year. Of the badges held, 3.3 per cent of all badges (86,000) were held by people with non-visible disabilities. This was an increase from 2.6 per cent (64,000) in the year ending 31 March 2022.
On 31 March 2023, 4.6 per cent of the population in England held a valid Blue Badge, up from 4.3 per cent the previous year.
As at 31 March 2023, 2.68 million people (4.7 per cent of the population in England) were entitled to a Blue Badge without further assessment (previously known as automatically entitled). The number and proportion of people entitled to a Blue Badge without further assessment has been rising since 2015. However, out of the 2.68 million people who were eligible for a Blue Badge without further assessment, only 38 per cent held a Blue Badge. This shows a decreasing trend over recent years – the equivalent figure was 60 per cent in 2015. Prior to 2015 this figure was relatively stable for several years.
A61) In England, 6,300 badges in the year ending March 2023 were reported to be lost or stolen. Of these, 73 per cent (4,600) were reported to be lost and 27 per cent (1,700) were stolen. [NOTE: The figures reflect cases that have been recorded in the database. It is possible that not all instances of loss or theft will be reported and recorded, and therefore will not be included in these figures.]